You don’t have to be a New Yorker to guess the the story of the city’s legendary Garment District. The tiny swath of New York’s Midtown once produced 90% of all clothing sold in the United States, but has been jeopardized by the rise of overseas manufacturing and encroaching development. While the area is still a hotbed of innovation, manufacturing and trade, the Garment District’s location in the city–and its reputation as a design powerhouse–relies on a unique formula of affordable real estate and available immigrant labor for its creatives to stay centralized. The Design Trust for Public Space and the Council of Fashion Designers of America have collaborated on a large-scale study of the neighborhood and its stakeholders named Made in Midtown, which launched last Friday.
A Web site showcasing the study is filled with fascinating information: interviews with designers and manufacturers like CFDA chair Diane von Furstenberg, a slideshow tour of the neighborhood, an infographic of the various industries represented floor-by-floor. The study also tries to make the case for why the fashion industry should still be headquartered in New York’s Midtown at all, including evidence of fashion’s economic impact on New York City and a survey of jobs it provides. The site feels like it was meant more for exploration than education–it’s a bit too disorganized and overwhelming to truly string together any kind of cohesive narrative–but perhaps the site was designed to evoke the visual cacophony found in the district’s over-stuffed spaces: There’s a lot of story packed into those few blocks.
For Phase II of its project, the Design Trust will go on to study more creative industries and how they impact New York. Made in Midtown opens the doors on a thriving industry that most people probably don’t know still exists in the heart of the city. It will be truly fascinating to see how other creatives are making–and remaking–the neighborhoods they inhabit.